Geeky girls are joining forces at Girl Geek dinners across the country. The international movement, which started in London, came to New Zealand’s shores last year. The local chapter is led by Amanda Jackson, a senior developer and consultant at Fronde — and a passionate gamer.
The group has held five events in Auckland and two in Wellington so far, and now “geeky” women in Tauranga, Christchurch and Dunedin are also asking for local Girl Geek dinners, says Jackson.
The evenings are about learning as well as being social events, says Jackson. So far, the group has had presentations and discussions on architecture, Silverlight and agile programming, to name just a few. But there is also a fun element too — such as challenging each table to build a bridge out of newspaper and masking tape, she says.
A lot of the women that come to the events are the only woman in their office, and it can be a nice break to meet a group of other female ICT professionals — “sometimes just to get a female perspective on things.”
Men are welcome to the events, but have to be taken as a date.
Jackson clocks up around five hours a night playing games, and she admits to sometimes “losing a whole weekend” to gaming. At the moment, one of her favourite games is browser-based Travian, which has hundreds of thousands of active players around the world.
Players start out as the leader of a village with two people. The challenge is then to grow the village, obtain troops, defend it and attack other villages. Players earns points for raiding, attacking and defending villages.
Jackson’s village is currently at war with the Romans, and she feels the urge to log on frequently to check that her villages are all right.
Other games she recommends include her all-time favourite, Tomb Raider, as well as Half-Life, Quake, Doom, and Command and Conquer, which she plays with pink tanks. While blowing things up is “a lot fun”, Jackson also enjoys the social aspect of gaming. Forget the picture of a lone gamer sitting in a dark room staring at a screen, surrounded by energy drinks.
“I’m always playing with people,” she says.
She often plays games at a friend’s house on weekends or with Fronde colleagues at girls’ nights, when they cook dinner and play games.
Gender is irrelevant in gaming these days, she says. When asked if she thinks the women portrayed in games are sexualised, she says in some cases they are, but that it doesn’t ruin the gaming experience. “The men aren’t real either.”
Jackson also plays the bass guitar and drums, and sings, and is going on a tour with her band in the UK next month. She is also a volunteer ambulance officer.
Brenda Wallace, one of the organisers of the Wellington Girl Geek dinners, says the events are not competing with industry group Women in Technology. Wallace has met with WIT general manager Cheryl Horo, and they agreed there was room for both organisations.